Albums of the year
A few standouts from a year filled with electronic, rock, and pop music.
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Most psychedelic experience
Washed Out – Paracosm
For those who are not familiar with the word paracosm, it is a term used to describe an imaginary world of fantasy. For forty minutes, anyone who listens to this album will embark on a journey to fantasyland with Washed Out. Songs like “Don’t Give Up” and “The Great Escape” have a dreamlike aesthetic. The hazy use of natural sounds, like birds chirping and the summer breeze, blend well with their genre of music, appropriately called chillwave.
Album that was clearly released in the wrong decade
The Strokes – Comedown Machine
After a five year hiatus in 2011 The Strokes released Angles. That year, The Strokes reinvented themselves with an 80’s-like vibe. And this year, The Strokes approached the follow up, “Comedown Machine,” exactly the same. The song “One Way Trigger” begins with a riff similar, if not identical , to the melody in A-ha’s “Take On Me.” This album will instantly transport listeners to a decade of walkmans, pac-man, and ironically, MTV.
Most evolved musical direction
Arctic Monkeys – AM
It’s evident that the Arctic Monkeys are no longer rushing to make their art. This record sounds like a studio album rather than a garage band demo tape. While their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006), had fast-paced messy instant classics, AM delivers a polished version of the Arctic Monkeys sound.
Most unintentionally depressing album
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
In their latest album, Vampire Weekend’s lead singer Ezra Koenig shows how he and the band have matured. Koenig no longer sings about drinking “horchata” or getting late to “campus”, like he once did as a student at Columbia University. Rather, he writes songs about life and the impending realization that as humans we all reach the same destination — death. Vampire Weekend are finding their purpose as musicians, but more importantly as human beings, and have left a hauntingly beautiful mark with their latest effort.
Best “art project” album
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
This was also one of the years most anticipated albums because it was co-produced by LCD Soundsystem’s frontman James Murphy. Murphy’s touch on Reflektor is evident with subtle dance beats used throughout, as well as collages of sounds that transition songs smoothly. What makes this album stand out is Arcade Fire’s use of different genres including reggae in “Flashbulb Eyes” and “Here Comes The Night Time.” However, they don’t obsess over other genres, instead, they find ways to make them their own.
Best pop album by an indie band
STRFKR – Miracle Mile
That’s pronounced “Starf–ker” in cased you’re wondering, but don’t let the explicit band name intimidate you. STRFKR is known for making upbeat electronic music. The song “When I’m Alive” is basically the musical version of the long-forgotten phrase YOLO. Structurally, it’s some of the happiest music you’ll hear that isn’t ska. STRFKR will definitely put you in the mood to dance especially if you like catchy hooks and memorable choruses.
Biggest guilty pleasure
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
Listening to The 20/20 Experience, one can’t help but feel guilty that it sounds so good. Justin Timberlake displays some of his slickest , most sensual tunes yet. When someone makes good music it’s easy to look past the fact they were in a boy band.